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Being a Teacher in Urban Phoenix during COVID

Being a mentor and teacher in COVID times.

Submitted from Adam Mosbrucker, a Mentor Teacher with Elevate Phoenix.

Functioning in the COVID Pandemic over the past six months has shaken up all of our lives. As a teacher-mentor for the nonprofit Elevate Phoenix I work in an urban setting. Part of my job is to be available 24-7 for my students, which entails picking up the phone or better yet showing up in their hour of need. With that in mind, navigating the waters of student life while not being able to be physically present has been interesting to say the least.

The challenges our students have faced ranged from a lack of accessibility to internet, lack of access to an internet cable device, COVID plaguing the homes of large families forced to stay home in confined spaces, students and families losing loved ones and not being able to see them in the hospital to say goodbye, increased anxiety, lack of motivation to engage with remote learning, missed opportunities for sports/clubs involvement, tensions in the home, the responsibility of taking care of siblings so parents can work… the list goes on and on.   

Initially, like may of us have experienced, the situation at hand seemed hopeless and to a degree frightening. We all were in the same boat of uncertainty. The question I began to ask myself as a teacher-mentor was how will I still serve our students effectively? 

My default was to fall back on our mission statement: To deliver long-term life-changing relationships with urban youth. If I am building relationships with my students than I am caring for every aspect of them. 

One of my students, Rickie, who I have mentored for the past two years experienced the loss of a parent. Given all the pandemic restrictions Rickie was not allowed to visit his mother in the hospital to say his final goodbyes. When I spoke to Rickie on the phone my heart was broken for him. My concern was that he wouldn’t recover from this loss. You see, Rickie is one of many students who desires to be a leader but has his days where negative peer pressure tries to keep him from realizing his potential. We have experienced a loss of motivation in student performance for much less than this. Much to my surprise Rickie responded with hope. With pain in his voice, he proceeded to tell me that he would honor his mother by continuing on his leadership journey. To say I was speechless is an understatement. Here is a fifteen year old young man with all the cards stacked against him and he bounces back with courage. 

  It is not easy to be a teacher, let alone a teacher who mentors their students in these tumultuous times. While many situations are not good or extremely challenging, I am inspired by the grit and resilience displayed by our students. This is one example where we have walked alongside students from year to year holding hope for them and Rickie can now hold onto that hope for his own future. As an organization we believe that what rises up from the ashes during times of adversity is the stuff leaders are made of and what will ultimately change the world.